Computational Neuroscience and Neuroinformatics, MSc

Course Duration: 12 months full time. A downloadable summary of the course is available here

Neuroinformatics is an exciting new area of science. As the amount of data in the neurosciences increases, new tools for data storage and management are needed. These tools include cloud computing and workflows, as well as better descriptions of neuroscience data. In addition, available data can inform computer simulations of neural dynamics and development. Parallel computing and new algorithms are needed in order to run large-scale simulations. Although the field only started in 2002, there is high demand within academia as well as within industry involving healthcare informatics, brain-inspired computing, and brain-inspired hardware architectures.

The MSc in Computational Neuroscience and Neuroinformatics is a full-time, one-year advanced masters course designed for students who have a good degree in the biological sciences or the physical sciences (computer science, mathematics, physics, engineering). It provides the specialist skills in core Neuroinformatics courses (such as computing and biology) with a significant focus on the development of research skills. The programme aims to equip its graduates with the necessary skills to contribute to biologically realistic simulations of neural activity and developments that are rapidly becoming the key focus of Neuroinformatics research. Prior experience with computers or computer programming is not required. The programme is ideal for students aiming for careers in industry or academia.

The course is based in the School of Computing Science and taught jointly by the Schools of Computing Science, Mathematics and Statistics, Biology, Cell and Molecular Biosciences and Institute of Genetic Medicine. In addition graduates of this master programme might apply for PhD studies at the School of Computing Science.

Why do an MSc in Neuroinformatics at Newcastle?

The MSc in Neuroinformatics is a truly interdisciplinary degree and provides the skills necessary to establish a rewarding career in this research area. The Newcastle programme has a research focus on data management, network analysis, and simulation, whilst delivering sound training and an introduction to research in computation and statistics, including exciting new areas such as e-Science and Cloud computing.

Newcastle is among the pioneers of the field in the UK and hosted the £4m EPSRC-funded CARMEN project for managing and processing electrophysiology data. Newcastle has strong links with the International Neuroinformatics Coordinating Facility (INCF). Currently, members of the faculty lead the data-sharing special interest group and the UK special interest groups in image-based Neuroinformatics and brain connectivity as well as in neurally-inspired engineering.

Connectomics and Neuroimaging

The set of connections in neural systems, now called the connectome, has attracted recent interest. Within the neuroanatomical network (structural connectivity), the nonlinear dynamics of neurons and neuronal populations result in patterns of statistical dependencies (functional connectivity) and causal interactions (effective connectivity), define three major modalities of complex neural systems. Analysing the organization, development, and dynamics of human and invertebrate connectomes is an active area and will be covered in the Neuroinformatics and Analysis of Complex Biological Systems modules.

Electrophysiological data

Recent technological advances allow us to observe neural activity at high resolutions using optical imaging (cameras) or arrays with thousands of electrodes. Storing and analysing such large data sets poses several challenges that you can learn about within the e-Science module.

Simulation of neural activity and development

It is now possible to simulate the activity and development of neural circuits at high levels of biological detail. Developing such simulations is part of the first semester Neuroinformatics module and is in line with programming and statistics module within this degree.

Neuroinformaticians with strong computing, software engineering and statistical skills are particularly highly sought by academia and industry. The School of Computing Science has extensive experience in teaching Computing Science to students with no previous computing background through our highly successful MSc Computing Science conversion course. Our programme aims to provide professionally trained research scientists with strong software engineering and programming skills.

The breadth of knowledge needed is such that a number of modules in the Newcastle MSc are taught by academic staff from the Schools that have the requisite specialised knowledge. Examples include Introduction to Neuroinformatics, Complex Biological Systems, and Statistics.

A major part of the Newcastle MSc in Neuroinformatics is a research project that will occupy approximately six months. This project may be associated with staff in any of the Schools mentioned above, thus providing a wide range of exciting areas in which the newly learnt Neuroinformatics skills can be deployed.

Course Structure

Semester 1 contains modules to build the basic grounding in, and understanding of, Neuroinformatics theory and applications, together with necessary computational and numeric understanding to undertake more specialist modules next semester. Training in mathematics and statistics is also provided. Some of these modules are examined in January at the end of Semester 1.

Semester 2 begins with two modules that focus heavily on introducing subject-specific research skills. These two modules run sequentially, in a short but intensive mode that allows you time to focus on a single topic in depth. In the first second semester module you will take a module that is focussed on learning about modelling of biochemical systems - essential material for understanding neural systems at a molecular level.

The second module is selected from a number of options. There are up to four modules to choose from, allowing you to tailor the research training component of your degree to your preferences. Module choices include; Comparative Genomics, e-Science, Advanced Object-Oriented Design and Programming, and Complex Systems Analysis. These modules are offered subject to demand. All of the semester two modules are examined by in-course assessment - there are no formal examinations in these modules.

Semester 1
Semester 2
Semester 3
CSC8314 Neuroinformatics20
CSC8316 Modelling Cellular Systems10
CSC8317 Introductory Programming for Biologists10
CSC8319 Stochastic Systems Biology10
CSC8390 Research Skills for Bioinformatics5
MAS8401 Numeric Skills (Statistics and Mathematics)105
Optional (10 credits)
Semester 1
Semester 2
Semester 3
BIO8009 Fundamentals of Cell and Molecular Biology10
CSC8304 Computing Environments for Bioinformatics10
Optional (10 credits)
Semester 1
Semester 2
Semester 3
CSC8305 Computational Analysis of Complex Biological Systems10
CSC8307 Comparative and Evolutionary Genomics10
CSC8308 e-Science for Bioinformatics10
CSC8311 Advanced Programming for Biologists10

The MSc Neuroinformatics research project begins in semester 2 after the completion of the two taught modules and runs through semester 3 until the end of August.

Entry Requirements

Entry requirements may be found in our current online prospectus entry for MSc Neuroinformatics.

Further Information

For more information about Neuroinformatics research at Newcastle, see: